(Photo: Joan Marcus)

The Small Business Administration will open applications Thursday for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program, which could bring up to $10 million to eligible Broadway applicants. 

Broadway productions, producers and other offices, with the help of their accountants and lawyers, have been pulling together troves of materials in preparation for the start of the long-awaited grant program, which was passed into law in December 2020. However, ahead of the program’s start, questions remained on eligibility and required materials.

Applications are expected to open at noon EDT Thursday.

The grant program, previously referred to as Save Our Stages, is seen as a means to get the Broadway industry back on its feet and cover some reopening costs. Theater owners, producers and productions themselves may be eligible to receive up to $10 million to cover expenses such as payroll costs, rent, mortgage payments, utilities and personal protective equipment.

The grant amounts are calculated based on 45% of an entity’s gross earned revenue in 2019, but can also encompass productions that were preparing to open in 2020, using a different revenue calculation.  

The rush to apply comes as the Small Business Administration has just over $16 billion to distribute to an estimated 30,000 or more applicants, which range from Broadway theaters to independent music venues to museums and zoos. First priority will be given to those who have lost more than 90% of revenue, followed by those that have lost at least 70% of their revenue. However, those priority groups will be determined by SBA, which will evaluate applications in the order they’re received. 

In a recent webinar, the SBA said it expected to distribute 15,000 awards with an average grant amount of $1 million. The Small Business Administration has designated 500 people to review applications.

The initial grant covers expenses incurred through Dec. 31, 2021, which may limit the amount that can be used to cover reopening costs, depending on the production’s timeline. The program includes the possibility of supplemental grants, which, if received, could lengthen the timeline in which the grants can be used. 

The application requires a vast amount of materials, including marketing materials, box office statements, employee lists, a proposed budget and letters certifying need. There are  lingering questions on whether the grant program includes businesses such as companies that book tours and other Broadway-related offices. 

“Every eligible production, producer and general manager has been working on interpreting the language in the original Act and the FAQ’s supplied by the SBA (issued as recently as last evening) to complete the application in the best way possible based on the limited information from SBA and the uniqueness of the finances of the theatre industry,” Robert Fried, a partner at accounting firm Withum, Smith and Brown, said Wednesday.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who helped usher the grant program into law, held a virtual meeting with Broadway League members and Small Business Administrator Isabella Guzman Wednesday evening to answer remaining questions.